State toxicology lab stops blood testing for drugs and alcohol after complaints, investigation

Stab lab suspended such tests in July

DENVER - The state of Colorado's toxicology laboratory will no longer conduct blood tests to determine drug and alcohol content, officials said Monday.

The move comes after the state suspended that kind of testing at the lab on July 3, following complaints that facility was not following training protocols and may have shown bias in some criminal cases.

Because the laboratory tests evidence which is used in the prosecution and defense of criminal cases, about 800 blood samples have been retested by an independent laboratory, AIT Labs, according to the state. AIT Labs verified the accuracy of the testing completed at the state lab, state officials said.

Yet lawyers on both sides of the courtroom are expressing concern.

"It's a bad move because it's going to cost the tax payers a lot more money to outsource all of this work," said defense attorney Jay Tiftickjian.

The potential cost increase is troublesome to some prosecutors, who fear it will lead to fewer trials.

"It either has to come from somewhere or they have to make different decisions about plea bargaining," said District Attorney George Brauchler who represents the 18th Judicial District.

"The retesting results are overwhelmingly consistent with original results -- 95 percent verification --so this is not a quality issue," Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement

"There is no unmet public health need for the state to resume performing blood-alcohol and blood-drug services. These services can be provided -- are being provided -- by private sector laboratories at competitive prices," Wolk said.

Lawyers feel the state could have set up a new structure to provide better checks and balances, instead of closing the lab.

 "Now, instead of trying to fix this, make it better, and make it work, they're just punting," said Tiftickjian.

 "It's hard to imagine something to being bungled more quickly and completely like this," said Brauchler.

Despite this move, the state will continue other health tests including screenings for newborn illnesses, water and air testing and milk testing.

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